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You may be wondering if you have sensitive eyes or not. There are many different reasons you could have sensitive eyes, and many ways to help them. Below we’ll discuss various problems and solutions that could be irritating your eyes.
No, it’s not fear of getting your picture taken. It’s an inability to tolerate or an extreme sensitivity to light. For people with photophobia, any kind of light (florescent, incandescent, natural, etc.) can trigger nausea, headaches, and irritation to the eyes.
Photophobia isn’t necessarily a disease unto itself—it is more commonly associated with or a symptom of other conditions. It can be a side-effect of migraines, and is associated with conjunctivitis, dry-eye syndrome, and corneal abrasions among other conditions.
Whatever the deeper issue may be (if there is one—some people’s eyes are simply sensitive to light), there are a few treatments that can ease your discomfort and help your eyes adjust better to light.
If you wear glasses and your sensitivity isn’t too severe, you might consider tinted eyeglasses. Some people need to wear sunglasses even when they’re inside, but if you just need protection when you go out into the sunlight, these are definitely an option. There are lenses that darken when you’re exposed to sunlight, and brighten to clear, ordinary glass when you return indoors.
If you don’t want to deal with waiting for the lenses to brighten again once you go back inside, consider prescription sunglasses. Something as simple as protecting your eyes with a pair of good sunglasses can be enough to alleviate the pain of the light sensitivity.
Having dry eyes can cause stinging, redness, irritability, and pain. If your eyes can’t produce a good, healthy amount of tears to coat your eyes, you can end up with moderate to severe sensitivity to light.
If you spend a lot of your day staring at a computer screen or reading, you’ll be more susceptible to dry eye syndrome. As a rule, people don’t blink as often as they should when they’re engaged in either of these activities. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds and look 20 feet away. This will give your eyes a chance to rest
If taking chances to rest your eyes doesn’t cure your photophobia, see your doctor about getting some eye drops that will give your eyes the moisture they need.
If it seems that your eyes have become sensitive to light overnight, you may have a corneal abrasion…which isn’t nearly as frightening as it sounds. The cornea is the clear, protective coating over your iris and pupil, and can be scratched by something as simple as being poked in the eye or rubbing it too aggressively.
If you think you may have scratched your eye, give it a few days. Don’t wear contacts, keep your eye clean (rinse it out frequently and flush it out if it gets something caught in it instead of rubbing it out), and wear sunglasses outside. If the scratch hurts badly enough, your eye doctor can give you a patch to wear for a few days to protect your eye against any light or irritation.
New Contact Lenses/Glasses
If you wear contacts, try switching to a new pair if your eyes start becoming sensitive. When contacts get old they can irritate your eyes, which can lead to photophobia. If a brand new pair doesn’t fix the problem, your eye doctor can try giving you a different brand or prescription.
If you wear glasses, you might have the same problem. It might be a good idea to visit eye professionals, like those at All About Eyes, for a regular eye exam. So if you’ve had the same pair of glasses for several years without an eye exam, your sensitivity to light could be cured simply with an updated prescription.
Medications can be both cure and cause photophobia. Some, like belladonna, quinine, atropine, and even amphetamines have been linked to sensitivity to light. If you’re taking any medications, consult a doctor to see if any of them might be contributing to your eye discomfort.
On the other hand, doctors can give you medications to help relieve eye sensitivity, such as acular or voltaren ophthalmic.
There are other, more severe conditions that could be causing your discomfort such as meningitis or a detached retina, but since photophobia is so common there’s no need to jump straight to the worst conclusion first. Try these simple, painless treatments, and if the sensitivity persists, see a doctor about other possible causes and solutions.